Pen and Paper, Please - Why We Love Real Things


In the last four or five years, there’s been a noticeable increase in a return to analog, and I’m not just talking about vinyl records. As creative types who love to make things, we artists are naturally drawn to the tactile, aren’t we? But I don’t believe it’s only artists who are beginning to realize their love of authenticity—of real things—over digital “convenience.”  

Suddenly it seems as if no one is too concerned with keeping their lives organized solely on their phones or hard drives. People are now NUTS for hardcopy planners. I have to admit, before owning my own business, I had little use for a planner of any sort, but now? I’ve come to truly [heart] planners. (I’m actually expecting my new Daily Greatness Journal for Business any day now!) And, of course there’s the case to be made for printed books versus e-pubs. 

I was curious from a human behavior perspective why we love actual things versus digital/virtual things, so I did a bit of research and came up with some very logical (and not surprising) reasons. On the chance you would find all of this interesting, as well, I'm sharing it here.

Writing with Real Pens on Real Paper

There’s something about writing on paper that gives a heads-up to our brains that we’re taking whatever it is we’re writing more seriously, even when this may not actually be the case. Because we can’t write as fast as we can type, we process more carefully when deciding how much to write down. Writing by hand using a series of finger movements that activate multiple regions in the brain associated with processing and learning/remembering. It’s like better exercise for our brains. When we have to slow down to write, we have more time to be creative and deliberate.

And then there’s the science of graphology and the aspect of our personality being alive fully in our writing. Not too much character to our typing!

Speaking of typing, think of how much more skill it takes to write than to type. Yes, you have to memorize where the keys are, just as you need to memorize the shape of each letter in order to recreate it with a pen or pencil, but essentially, every letter requires the same general movement with typing—pressing down. Handwriting on the other hand requires far more cognitive prowess. There’s holding and moving the writing implement in a variety of ways; being aware of keeping x-heights consistent and legible . . . I mean, it’s a lot of thinking. Studies show that children who learn to write by hand have much better recognition of the letters than those who only learn to type. It’s a body-memory thing. Recovering stroke victims relearn reading by tracing letters with their fingers. 

Reading Real Books

We all know the arguments for digital books: price, portability and physical storage. But the reasons we often prefer physical books seemed more elusive on the surface. The answer most people come up with is that printed books are tactile and feel good to hold. OK, I agree, but really, is that it?? 

Physical orientation memory - As it turns out, interacting with an actual book is actually more engaging to your mind and research also suggests reading hardcopy books aids in learning. Have you ever noticed that when you recall a quote or short passage from a book, you can nearly always remember the approximate place you read it—left page or right page and general placement on the page? This is due to what’s called physical orientation memory. This supports our survival because we need to recall where we spotted food, safe shelter, etc. Being able to physically “see” the spot on the page where we read something, increases the likelihood we’ll remember it. Can you imagine trying to recall placement on a scrolling webpage? 

Another reason we like real books is that we can gauge our progress through the book, being able to easily see how much we’ve read and how much is left. People are much more likely to finish a real book and give up much less easily. 

Real books are easier to interact with—easier to bookmark, easier to highlight favorite passages or make notes in the margins. Then, there’s the obvious advantage that the paper version won’t run out of battery life and isn’t prone to technological glitches. 

Technology advances, but the human form is much slower to advance. We need tangible things to help us feel alive and to keep our minds pliable and functional. 



Speaking of books . . . real or digital . . . how is the writing of your book coming along? Did I tell you I'm super excited about a course I'm putting together (I'm more than half done now!) called Discovering Your Inner Book Idea? [title may change] Be sure you're on my email list so you're among the first to know when it's available. And if there's any support I can give you for getting your book out into the world, you know who to call, right? :-)